2021 marks the second consecutive year of increasing deaths involving motor vehicles. Deaths increased 11% in 2021 following an 8.3% increase in 2020.  In 2021, 46,980 people died in motor-vehicle crashes compared to 42,338 in 2020 and 39,107 in 2019.

However, even with this spike in deaths, between 1913 and 2021 motor-vehicle deaths per 10,000 registered vehicles decreased 95%, from 33 to 1.66, respectively. In 1913, only 1.3 million vehicles were registered, and 4,200 people died on the road. In 2021, 282 million vehicles were registered and 46,980 people died on the road.

In 2021 compared to 2020, reflecting the recovery from the pandemic, miles traveled increased 8%, the number of registered vehicles increased 2.4%, and the population grew 0.4%. As a result, the mileage death rate increased 2.7%, the vehicle death rate increased 8.5%, and the population death rate jumped 10.5%.

Medically consulted injuries in motor-vehicle incidents totaled 5.4 million in 202 1, and total motor-vehicle injury costs were estimated at $498.3 billion. Costs include wage and productivity lossesmedical expensesadministrative expensesmotor-vehicle property damage, and employer costs.

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Compared to 2012, 2021 motor-vehicle deaths increased by 29% while the mileage death rate has increased by 22% and the vehicle registration death rate increased 15%.

2021 Motor-vehicle Crash Highlights


Deaths 46,980
Medically consulted injuries 5.4 million
Cost $498.3 billion
Motor-vehicle mileage 3.140 billion
Registered vehicles in the United States 282 million
Licensed drivers in the United States 233 million
Death rate per 100 million vehicle miles 1.50
Death rate per 10,000 registered vehicles 1.66
Death rate per 100,000 population 14.26

The National Safety Council (NSC) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) count motor-vehicle crash deaths using somewhat different criteria. NSC counts total motor-vehicle-related fatalities – both traffic and non-traffic – that occur within one year of the crash. This is consistent with the data compiled from death certificates by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). NSC uses NCHS death certificate data, less intentional fatalities, as the final count of unintentional deaths from all causes.

NHTSA counts only traffic fatalities that occur within 30 days of the crash in its Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS). This omits about 800 to 1,000 motor-vehicle-related deaths each year that occur more than 30 days after the crash. Non-traffic fatalities – those that occur in parking lots, private roads, and driveways and account for 900 to 1,900 deaths annually – are also omitted. By using a 30-day cutoff, NHTSA can issue a “final” count about eight months after the reference year.

Provided below is a summary of NSC and NHTSA traffic crash data for 2021:

Motor-vehicle Crash Outcomes, United States, 2021

NSC estimates:

Severity Deaths or injuries Crashes Drivers (vehicles) involved
Total Motor Vehicle (deaths within 1 year) 46,980 43,200 66,600
Medically consulted injury 5,400,000 3,700,000 6,800,000
Property damage (including unreported) and non-disabling injury 9,500,000 16,700,000
Total  – 13,200,000 23,600,000

NHTSA estimates:

Severity Deaths or injuries Crashes Drivers (vehicles) involved
Traffic (deaths within 30 days) 42,939 39,508 60,904
Injury (disabling and non-disabling) 2,498,000 1,728,000 3,161,000
Police-reported property damage 4,336,000 7,599,000
Total 6,103,000 10,821,000

Source: NHTSA for deaths, injuries, and crashes in bottom half of table. All other figures are NSC estimates.